Top 5 tips for new online students

David Heilman, North Campus Staff

Due to the concern over COVID-19, many schools and colleges are switching to an online format in order to safeguard students and faculty from meeting in densely populated environments and breaking recommended Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines.

To help ease the transition, here are 5 tips for online class based learning for those that are new or inexperienced with online courses.

Familiarize yourself with the program you’re using ahead of time. There is a good chance that the program you’re using has a lot of features that can make your experience easier. Professors do have some customization in how they arrange the class page and how certain things are communicated. Take a few moments as early as you can to explore the options and choices made. A few questions to find the answer to as soon as possible are: How do I contact the professor? Is there a way to communicate with students that are in the same class? How are assignments submitted? Having the answers to these ahead of time is key so if something goes wrong or things get down to the wire on an assignment you aren’t scrambling at the last minute to learn the program as well.

Watch out for due dates on papers, assignments, tests, etc. This may sound like a no-brainer since due dates are not a new concept. However, without interacting regularly with fellow students and professors the “casual reminder” of the upcoming due date will no longer happen. Think about how many times you thought “That day is a week or 2 away. I’ve got time” and then 1 or 2 weeks later the professor casually reminds the class about the assignment saving several people from completely forgetting. Setting electronic reminders, organizing a school specific schedule or simply regularly checking in for announcements are a few ways to avoid forgetting deadlines. Add on tip, check ahead of time what time assignments are due. While most professors are merciful and set the due date to be by 11:59, not all do. Don’t get caught by this.

Pace yourself. One of the main advantages online courses have is the freedom to do work at your own pace. While keeping due dates in mind, you do not have to do all the work for all of your classes each week in one day; even if this seems advantageous to have more free time. Doing all the work in one day can lead to burn out and worse retention. Try a couple different patterns of reading/ working on the assigned topics for each week and see what works best. If reading for 2 hours, taking a break, and then picking up where you left off feels best; then do that! There is no real rush if assignments are not left undone till the last minute if you only have a bit left to finish on it. Just make sure it doesn’t turn into a habit.

Devote specific time to completing schoolwork and limit all distractions possible. In-class time is good for devoting a specific time to each class over the course of the week. With the freedom online classes offer comes the cost of having to devote that time yourself. A good way to avoid procrastination is to find time you are regularly free and assign that as your class time. During that time find a place you won’t be distracted, sit down, open your class program and go to work. If you don’t have a quiet place to work in noise canceling headphones and a playlist of your favorite songs or some calming instrumental is a great way to block out the busy world around you.  

Do not be afraid to email your professor. Since there is less interaction between professors and students online compared to in person, there are less opportunities to ask questions.Fortunately all professors come equipped with a school made email ready to receive questions about topics of study, problems with blackboard, among many other things. An important thing to remember is there is a human on the other side of the screen and they are there to assist in the problems or questions you may be having. Using your school appointed email helps prevent messages from getting lost in spam filters from college emails.